The ‘tax the rich’ call bestows unwarranted importance on them

It is Wednesday, so only a few snippets only today, while I am working on six lectures I have to give in Helsinki over the next two weeks. The first of those lectures will be a public event. And looking at the weather I am about to undergo around a 45 degree Celsius turnaround from where I am today in Australia to where I will be next week! That is what happens when you go to Finland in the early part of the year. Anyway, here are some items of interest I hope.
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    Posted in Music, Reclaim the State | Leave a comment

    There is no European citizen – cultures and narratives diverge in the Eurozone

    I have noted before that when someone asks me where I come from I immediately (and innately) respond Australia. If questioned further I might tell them I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria. Sure enough, I am a Victorian (with some of the cultural attachments that that denotes) but that affiliation is weak compared to my nationality. That doesn’t make me a xenophobe or a nationalist. It just says I am culturally from that geographic area. If I ask my friends from Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, etc the same question, they will answer they are from those nations. They never immediately respond by saying they are European. I can get them to say they are European but that is not their innate cultural association. The point is that there is really no such thing as a European citizen. They are all citizens of their individual Member States with little shared culture and quite diverse histories (not to mention languages etc). An interesting study came out from European economics think tank Bruegel last week (February 15, 2018) – Tales from a crisis: diverging narratives of the euro area – highlights the consequences of these differences and concludes that it makes “for an extremely challenging context within which to conduct a uniform monetary policy across different countries”. I would add economic policy in general to that assessment.
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      Posted in Eurozone, Framing and Language | 11 Comments

      Censorship, the central bank independence ruse and Groupthink

      A few things came up late last week which demonstrate the neoliberal Groupthink is alive an well at the highest levels of policy in Australia (and elsewhere). First, there was a story that a report from an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) journalist on the Australian government’s corporate tax cuts was withdrawn after publication by the ABC after receiving several complaints from senior government ministers including the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. The story was not even radical. The journalist who I have had dealings with is a neoliberal herself when it comes to understanding macroeconomics. Second, one of the claims that the neoliberals make is that central banks are now firmly independent and not part of the political process. This is all part of the depoliticisation process whereby governments absolve themselves of political responsibility for policies that harm the citizens by appealing to ‘independent’ external authorities (such as the IMF, or central banks). Well we know that the claim about central bank independence is not true both in terms of the way the monetary system operates but also in the conduct of various central bankers over the last few decades. Last week, the Reserve Bank of Australia governor once again demonstrated how politically independent he is NOT by invoking key mainstream neoliberal myths about deficits and grandchildren. And then an old hack and largely failed British Labour politicians got in on the act. The Groupthink is powerful but becoming increasingly desperate under the increasing pressure from citizens for more accountability.
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        Posted in Central banking, Fiscal Statements, Framing and Language, RBA decisions, Reclaim the State | 14 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – February 17-18, 2018 – answers and discussion

        Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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          Posted in Saturday quiz | 6 Comments

          The Weekend Quiz – February 17-18, 2018

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 8 Comments

            Australian labour market weakened a bit at the start of 2018

            The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for January 2018 shows that the Australian labour market labour market weakened a bit at the start of 2018. Employment growth was again very modest in January 2018 and participation fell. The fall in unemployment was due to the fall in the participation rate as employment growth failed to keep up with the underlying population growth. The teenage labour market, however, improved marginally on the back of the rise in part-time work. The deficit in full employment growth for this cohort remains stark. Further, underemployment rose sharply as did the broad labour underutilisation rate for the second consecutive month, signifying that the Australian labour market still is a fair distance away form full employment. Overall, my assessment is that the Australian labour market has a lot of slack remaining. It is not close to full employment yet.
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              Posted in Labour Force | Leave a comment

              Here is a new argument for the Remainers – should be a winner

              Here are a couple of Wednesday snippets on my (alleged) no blog post day. I have a great tip for the Remainers in Britian who are struggling to make any sense in their quest to hang on to the European dream (nightmare!). It is not a new argument but it has resurfaced in the US recently. Apparently, “the top US intelligence official” (words have meaning and intelligence usually means having some brain power) has told the US Congress that “the ballooning national debt … posed a ‘dire threat’ to … national security”. He told the Congress that the “fiscal crisis … truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security”. Truly used to mean something also. So here’s the thing all you so-called British Remainers. This will top your claims that Brexit will increase the rate of cancer in the UK. Just start raving on about threats to national security. A sure winner. It is the argument you introduce when you have run out of any semblance of an argument. Meanwhile, we now know that the British government, while in the EU, helped the right-wing forces (including the CIA) to kill the democracy in Chile in 1973, in what should be considered one of the more disgusting historical episodes. But then Salvatore Allende was clearly a threat to national security. What with all those Chileans that were improving their material standards of living under Allende and all!
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                Posted in Economics | 29 Comments

                Employers lying about the flat wages growth in Australia

                Last Friday (February 8, 2018), the Reserve Bank of Australia issued its latest – Statement on Monetary Policy – February 2018 – which in its own words “sets out the Bank’s assessment of current economic conditions, both domestic and international, along with the outlook for Australian inflation and output growth.” Of interest to me (apart from all of it) was the discussion of domestic economic conditions, in particular the discussion concerning wages growth. Workers around the world are struggling to gain any semblance of decent (if any) wages growth, are facing real wage cuts, and seeing national income redistributed to profits (even as investment ratios fall). They are observing increasing gaps between real wages growth and productivity growth, which means the workers’ share of output gains is falling. With sluggish investment ratios, it isn’t rocket science to realise that the redistributed national income is being pumped into the financial markets casino, which delivers little or no productive benefit to society and provide for continued economic instability. It is clear that major shifts have to occur in wage setting mechanisms to redress these imbalances. That should be a major focus of progressive activists. It is a global problem.
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                  Posted in Labour costs, RBA decisions, Reclaim the State | 2 Comments

                  The bond vigilantes saddle up their Shetland ponies – apparently

                  Last week (February 8, 2018), we witnessed the US Senate spectacle with Rand Paul embarrassing himself with his lack of economic knowledge but also embarrassing both major parties – the Republicans for their gross hypocrisy and the Democrats for their gross idiocy. The – Congressional Record – of Paul’s speech (starting S817) is a classic. Also, last week, the stables were stirring apparently, as the ‘bond vigilantes’ were strapping on their saddles and getting ready to make the US government suffer for its so-called fiscal ‘ill discipline’. These characters apparently emerge out of the darkness of fiscal profligacy to defend our interests and force the government to run surpluses. Fantasy stuff all round. In fact, Rand Paul should resign and get a job he is more suited for (which would be?) and the bond vigilantes should make sure their Shetland ponies are not to wild for them. These bond traders play this elaborate game of bluff and pretend they have the power over the government. In fact, they are mendicants queuing up for their daily dollop of corporate welfare and the government could play them out of the game anytime it chose to. The problem is that the bluff works because governments are captive to the neoliberal nonsense that my professsion preaches.
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                    Posted in Economics, Fiscal Statements, Framing and Language, US economy | 17 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – February 10-11, 2018 – answers and discussion

                    Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 7 Comments